Guidelines for Purging Office Files

Office files contain three types of records: transitory, those that must be retained for a specific period of time, and those that have enduring value.

Transitory records are those routine correspondence or other documents that have short-term value and should be destroyed after serving their purpose and not sent to the University Records Center (URC).

Some records must be retained for specified periods of time in accordance with state or federal laws. These records may be stored in the URC.

A small percentage of records have enduring value and help to document the history of the University. These records may be candidates for permanent storage in the University Archives.

Record series that contain the highest percentage of transitory material are correspondence and subject files, which are found at all levels in universities. Experience has shown that the categories of papers listed below may generally be eliminated from files without affecting their substantive value.

Remember that although records may not have enduring historical value, they may need to be retained for legal, fiscal or administrative reasons. Please refer to the University's General Records Retention Schedule to verify if records need to be retained.

Begin by eliminating all duplicate copies and supplies from the files. Note that the same rules apply for electronic data including e-mail.

The following categories are usually without long-term value and should be destroyed after they have fulfilled their administrative or legal purpose. Please refer to the University's General Records Retention Schedule to verify retention periods.

  • Accounting statements
  • Acknowledgements
  • Announcements of meetings (announcements in form of a program should be retained)
  • Applications (except admissions applications)
  • Appointment books, calendars and planners (except Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor)

  • Ballots (a blank ballot should be retained by the producing organization)
  • Bank statements
  • Bills, financial
  • Budget work papers

  • Cash books
  • Casual calculations
  • Casual memoranda
  • Checks, canceled
  • Claims
  • Copy for publication (after publication)
  • Covering letters and memos (unless they provide explanatory information on the contents)

  • Directives and instructions - received
  • Drafts (once the final paper is issued, excepting those which could add significant insight into the creators thought processes as he/she worked on the material)

  • Inter-departmental correspondence and memoranda asking for action (after action has been taken)
  • Invoices

  • Letters and Memos setting up appointments
  • Licenses

  • Memoranda asking for comment (when comment has been received)

  • Orders, financial
  • Outlines

  • Payroll deductions, authorizations and notices
  • Proofs for publication (after publication)
  • Property inventories

  • Reading files
  • Releases
  • Reminders (when action has been taken)
  • Routine financial records such as purchase orders, requisitions, invoices, cash receipts, statements of long distance phone calls, delivery slips
  • Requests
  • Reservations and confirmations

  • Sales literature
  • Shorthand notes

  • Tickets
  • Tickler files
  • Time books and records
  • Trial balances

  • Vouchers

  • Warrants
  • Work orders
  • Work papers
  • Worksheets

Non-SU periodicals and publications (catalogs, newsletters, bulletins, reports, manuals, books, magazines, etc.) should be discarded unless they have a clear relationship to the office or department, such as ones containing an article about or by the creating department. Publications heavily annotated by the creator of the collection, and publications created by the department should also be retained. Two copies of every departmental publication should be sent to the University Archives for permanent retention.

If you have any doubts concerning which records to destroy, please contact Records Management at rm@syr.edu or 315-443-8388.